Have you ever committed yourself to something that didn’t give you an immediate payoff or evidence of progress? Maybe you started a workout routine, but your body didn’t look more toned. Perhaps you started a new diet to lose weight, but the scale did not trend downward as fast as you expected. Maybe you studied a new subject, but didn’t retain the information as quickly as you had hoped.
Failure to make progress is incredibly discouraging. It often leads us to apathy.
Pastors and ministry leaders, the work of gospel ministry is tough, and often times very discouraging. It is a work where progress sometimes eludes our sight. You can preach sermons week after week and not see progress. Yes, pastor, you are not the only one.
John Piper, one of my favorite pastors, said this in a preaching seminar in 1988:
“God will hide from you, in His providence, the blessing of your work. He will let enough blessing be known to you so that you are assured that He is in it, and He will keep you from knowing enough lest you be assured that you could do without Him.”
Did you hear that!? Even John Piper has felt the blessing of his work is sometimes hidden from his eyes. You are not alone, brothers. There is an unseen work of God.
So how do we press forward when we don’t see progress? Here are three encouragements for navigating those seasons of time.
1. Keep Plowing
We must continue tilling the soil and scattering seeds. We keep watering. We trust God for the growth. We cannot expect growth and health if we do not labor faithfully. The hard part about faithfully plowing in seasons where you do not see progress is that it feels pointless. It is not, friends. Keep plowing. Keep waking up daily and doing the work the Lord has called you to.
2. Celebrate the Evidences of Grace
Sometimes the evidences of God’s work can be hard to see. However, I have found, as Piper remarked too, that God will let enough of the blessing of your work to be known so that you are assured He is in it. Friends, if you are faithfully proclaiming the gospel, you can be assured He is in it. Whether you are preaching, leading a group, starting a ministry, in a counseling ministry, leading students or children, or some other ministry, God is at work in our labors. So when you see those evidences, or hear stories that testify to His word, celebrate. Give God thanks. Find satisfaction in knowing the Lord is using you.
3. Cling to His Promise
Notice I wrote “promise” in the singular. There are infinite numbers of promises – notice the “s” on the end – in the Bible to hold to. But from a ministry perspective, especially in the context of this subject, there is a vital promise – singular – we must grab hold of regularly and keep in front of us. In Isaiah 55:11 the Lord reminds us, “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” If we are faithful to proclaim God’s Word in our ministries – which should be the absolute foundation of our labors – then we can rest on the promise that His Word will always accomplish the purposes He intended for it. We can cling to this promise: God always works through His Word.
Continue in faithfulness, friends. Do not let your inability to see how God is working lead you to conclude that He is not. Sometimes He hides the blessing of your work from you, lest you depend on yourself and not God. So keep laboring, celebrate the evidences of His grace in your work, and cling to the promise: He is not going to let your work be in vain.
*If this has been helpful for you, share the love with others*